Special Plaidcast: Wendy Peralta & Danny Robertshaw by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

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Special Episode Wendy Peralta Danny Robertshaw

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Piper speaks with two of the judges from the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals at the National Horse Show, Wendy Peralta and Danny Robertshaw. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!

GUESTS AND LINKS:

  • Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Guest: Wendy Peralta is the owner and operator of Seabreeze Farm Inc. located in Geneva, Florida. Seabreeze is a well known and respected training facility for top-level equestrian competition located in Central Florida. Wendy and her husband train and manage students and horses to compete at the nation’s finest shows. Wendy is also the of mother two professional children, Nikko and Trevor Ritter and her daughter Catalina Peralta rides for the University of Georgia. Wendy has had a great career showing hunters and jumpers throughout the years. Wendy was the Chef d’Equipe for the Zone 4 Young Riders Teams, winning a Gold medal in the National Junior Jumper Team Competition, and earned the designation of Gold Star Jumper Coach at the 2017 USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. Wendy also coached the winner of the USET Talent Search East in 2007 and was awarded the best trainer trophy for that year. She also co-trained the winner of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services Children’s Medal Finals in 2015. Wendy serves on governing committees for the USEF and is the current president of the Central Florida Hunter and Jumper Association. She is a large R judge and has officiated at such shows as the Winter Equestrian Festival, the Zone 3 Washington International Horse Show, and most recently, judged the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals.
  • Guest: Danny Robertshaw is a USEF “R” licensed judge and serves as a committee member for both US Equestrian and the USHJA and most recently was one of the judges of the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. As a trainer and rider, Danny piloted some of his era’s most celebrated show hunters to championships. In 1989, riding Protocol, Danny became the first rider to earn championships in the Regular Working Hunters at Devon, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show, the National Horse Show, and the Royal Winter Fair in a single season. In 2001, Danny received the USEF’s Emerson Burr Trophy as the year’s Equestrian of Honor for the Hunter division, and in 2010 the USHJA gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award. Today, Danny and his partner Ron Danta operate Danny & Ron’s Rescue which was started after Hurricane Katrina where they personally care for injured and abused animals until they are ready for adoption.
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Photo Courtesy of Wendy Peralta
  • Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Sponsors: LAURACEA, Show Strides Book Series, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard and Good Boy, Eddie

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm 
[00:00:59] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up on today’s annual special episode, I will talk with two of the four judges from the 2023 ASPCA Maclay finals at the National Horse Show, Danny Robertshaw and Wendy Peralta. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. 

Piper Klemm [00:01:53] Wendy Peralta is the owner and operator of Seabreeze Farm and located in Geneva, Florida. Seabreeze is a well-known and respected training facility for top level competition located in central Florida. Wendy and her husband train and manage students and horses to compete at the nation’s finest shows. Wendy is also the mother of two professional children, Nico and Trevor Ritter, and her daughter, Catalina Peralta rides for the University of Georgia NCEA equestrian team. Wendy has had a great career showing hunters and jumpers throughout the years. She was the chef D’equipe for the zone four Young Riders team winning a gold medal in the National Junior Jumper team competition and earned the designation of Gold Star Jumper coach at the 2017 USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. Wendy also coached the winner of the U.S. Talent Search East in 2007 and was awarded Best Trainer Trophy for that year. She co-trained the winner of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services Children’s Medal Finals in 2015. Wendy serves on the governing committees for USEF and is the current president of the Central Florida Hunter and Jumper Association. She is a large R judge and has officiated such shows as the winter equestrian festival. The Zone three Washington International Horse Show Finals, and most recently, the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals. Danny Robertshaw is a USEF large licensed judge and serves as a committee member for both the U.S. Equestrian and USHJA, and was most recently one of the panel of four judges at the 2023 ASPCA Maclay Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. As a rider and trainer, Danny piloted some of his eras most celebrated show hunters to championships. In 1989, riding Protocol, Danny became the first rider to earn championships in the regular working hunters at Devon, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the National and the Royal Winter Fair in a single season. In 2001, Danny received the USEF’s Emerson Burr Trophy as the year’s equestrian of honor for the Hunter Division, and in 2010 the USHJA gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award. Today, Danny and his partner Ron Danta operate Danny and Ron’s Rescue, which was started after Hurricane Katrina, where they personally care for injured and abused animals until they are ready for adoption. Welcome to the plaiddcast, Wendy and Danny. 

Both [00:04:11] Thank you. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:13] Wendy, I want to start with you. Can you tell us a little bit about the changes this year for people who didn’t hear about them and and why this was kind of a monumental Maclay finals. 

Wendy Peralta [00:04:26] Well, for the first year in history, there was no pre qualification as far as regionals go. So essentially everybody that was qualified and chose to come to the finals was allowed to. So we had a group of over 200 people, which usually it’s capped off at 150 I believe is the number. So that combined with a new scoring system and a panel of four judges versus two judges, led to a very different Maclay finals this year. 

Piper Klemm [00:05:08] And so every rider got a score which was given not as they exited the ring, which is how we normally think of scores, but it was given every 50 riders. 

Wendy Peralta [00:05:19] Correct. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:05:20] That’s Correct. 

Piper Klemm [00:05:24] Danny, what did you think about kind of some of these changes? Were were you all excited? Were you all apprehensive? What was kind of the feeling the night before? 

Danny Robertshaw [00:05:36] We were pretty apprehensive, but we had met several times and we felt like we felt like the plan was sort of put in place there. Was workable and we were hoping it would work. And I think it did work. 

Wendy Peralta [00:05:53] I think it worked out fantastic. And yes, I think we were all quite apprehensive. And, you know, it’s a little nerve wracking when you think you have to give so many scores. But it actually fell into place. And after the first 50 went, I think we all our heart stopped racing a little bit and we were like, Oh, this, this is this. It’s cool. This is this looks like it’s going to work. And then for me personally, you know, the adrenaline just was amazing. The kids were so good and the scores were, you know, the the course was amazing and everything just sort of fell into place. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:33] Danny, tell us about that course. So I know for some of the medal finals that judges are very heavily involved in in the designing and building of the course. And that varies Medal final to Medal Final. We all saw you walking the course up at 5:45 a.m. What did you know about the course prior? You know, were there any surprises or how did that process prior to Sunday work? 

Danny Robertshaw [00:07:01] I think the bigger thing was the distances were pretty challenging where you had to be able to go forward to one thing and then steady after something else. Up the diagonal that way, and then you had to make sure you had momentum around it trying to get to the big oxer oxer and then take your time after that to the next fence, I think the jump at the end of the ring by the in gate in that turn to the I guess the Gucci wall, that really knocked a lot of people out because even though they think they just turning it was still to the inside of the ring so much that a lot of people lost their horses to the to the outside leg and where they just kept bulging out a little bit and then they didn’t nail the wall. So then that made it you know, it ended up creating a series of trouble that they had to keep overcoming. 

Wendy Peralta [00:08:04] We did actually meet with Bobby. Danny came in a little bit later, lucky guy. But we did actually meet with Bobby and kind of told him, you know, he he did amazing courses, but we did give him a little bit of an idea of what we would like to see, especially for the second round. So we we did have a pretty good idea minus walking it of what we were going to have prior to Sunday morning. 

Piper Klemm [00:08:41] Wendy talking about that turn that Danny just mentioned, I think it could have been kind of we saw it in seven and eight strides all day. I interviewed trainers and kind of asked them what they thought. A few told me that seven was a harder option. What kind of were your notes on that of someone? Were you counting was if someone did the 8 beautifully like what? 

Wendy Peralta [00:09:06] We didn’t care. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:07] Okay. 

Wendy Peralta [00:09:07] You know, I mean, at that point, you know, the first jump determined so many scores, it almost made it easy because if you didn’t catch the first jump, well, you know, you just set yourself up for probably not being able to make us forget that you were maybe a little deep or, you know, you know what I mean? Like, it just helped to predetermine the course. But no, I mean, but, you know, these kids are so well trained and so well programed, you know, at that point, for that turn, it didn’t really matter. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:47] Danny, We saw we mapped out the score spread throughout the day that we posted. I mean, I think with a class that big, there was a good spread. But, you know, I don’t think we saw a ton of really horrible scores. I mean, there are some medal finals that that just feel carnage. But I thought it was fascinating that everyone could kind of track that and follow along. And I always hear that the plural of anecdote is not data. And all we’ve kind of had up until now is is anecdote in these medal finals. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:10:20] I think there were a ton of good riders and there were a ton of good riders that didn’t make it just from one mistake. And, you know, it was unfortunate, but I think in the end, nobody can really get in with a rail just because it put their score down just a notch where they were, just below the cutoff. So there were a lot of a lot of people. I mean, rode beautifully, but just made one error that just put them below where they needed to be. We kept up with the ah, cutoff score, you know, all day long as we went through, and I can’t remember what it was now, but it was probably 87 or 88 up that high just to be in the top 24. 

Wendy Peralta [00:11:14] I think what people, you know, like when you see those numbers and everything, what is amazing with those numbers is that you have to remember like kids that didn’t, you know, get sorted out through the regionals were participating and they did quite well. You know, normally, you know, it’s it’s a little more of an elitist, you know, pre-qualified group. And when you consider that, you know, everybody that qualified from their region was allowed to compete, it was pretty impressive. 

Piper Klemm [00:11:48] When they talked to us about the the flat phase. And can you explain the importance of the flat phase in the Maclay specifically to to people who aren’t thinking about equitation as much? 

Wendy Peralta [00:11:59] Well, the flat is the basis of all the jumping work. And I think the flat was something we, you know, we sat down and came up with the commands ahead of time so that they would match for everybody. Few things we took into consideration that we have not had to deal with in the past was the fact that we had judges on both sides in the middle. So, you know, in the past they have been able to say, you know, pick up the counter counter in the front on the judge’s side or something like that. And we thought that would be, you know, too hard since we had people sitting on each side to do that. I think, you know, most of those kids are pretty good on the flat. You could see where some of them struggled a little bit. You know, the stirrups would suddenly be behind their leg and you could see the top kids really, you know, it was just another day for them, I think, in the future going forward. Maybe have less people. Ideally, we’d love to have, you know, maybe the three groups that we used to have of, you know, eight. But I think with time constraints, we you know, they did the two groups. But I think. You know, it was we scored it like you would a USET finals, which, you know, you give scores for that. 

Piper Klemm [00:13:46] And then Wendy, I thought the first round was very focused on basics. They were hard challenges. But what questions? What’s important to you to ask in the second round? What riding questions do you want to see them answer? 

Wendy Peralta [00:13:59] Well, we really wanted to see the hand gallop. That was a big when we sat down and said, okay, when Bobby said, what would you like to see in the test? And the hand gallop was something, you know, Danny with his hunter background and the rest of us, you know, it’s you. I mean, it doesn’t matter whether it was ten years ago or 20 years ago. The test has been used and you see kids that just they they don’t try or they don’t understand what it is. And we thought it was a great test and we didn’t want to see them whip inside and do any trick riding. We just wanted to see like a beautiful canter gallop right up there and find the jump and go away. And then Bobby did such a great job with the the course, you know, then you had to tighten it up. And then we decided we were going to put in the adding down the one line off the other lead just to show that you could figure that out. And then with the very, you know, gentle vertical down there at the end, at that point, we wanted to see some feeling, you know, you had to know your horse, you had to know where you were after you jumped that collecting 6 stride. We wanted to see somebody canter up and balance their horse, not just hurl them at the vertical and have that, you know, maybe come down, maybe stay up, you know, at that level and with that group. And that’s what you saw the top riders do. They just, you know, the balance of the horse, the softness, the feel more than just, you know, get it done. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:15:41] And I think with the with the gallop and we were a little disappointed that some of them just didn’t really hand gallop. And we kind of we’re thinking of it in three things. Either they really did hand gallop and go to the jump. Or they attempted to and started to and then backed out of it a little bit or didn’t even, you know, didn’t even attempt to open the step up. So it kind of gave us three levels of how that hand gallop went. And and, you know, unfortunately the ones that just didn’t hand Gallup, it punished them. 

Piper Klemm [00:16:22] Wendy I thought people watching, you know generally agreed with what was going on. I thought the scores really helped all day, kind of keep people calm. What can you tell us about the decision to give the scores after every 50? Kind of like a normal standby? Because I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like that pretty much anywhere in the sport. You know, like the North American championships, the capital challenge, you’re getting the score right when you walk out of the ring. And I thought it really helped keep people like have a little bit of distance between themselves and their score, which I hope I thought it helped keep people calm a little bit. 

Wendy Peralta [00:17:05] I agree 100%. And actually a huge shout out to Liz Soroka for making that making that whole thing happen and appear so seamless. Actually, I think initially when we spoke about the scores, because you had two scores being averaged, you know, panel one and two or A and B, however you want to look at it, to have the time to put that together and get the, you know, 200 plus kids in and out with a little bit of a shorter or faster course. I think to just sort of, like you say, diffuse a little bit of, oh, my God, Well, you know, I got a 82 and I thought I was an 84, you know, that kind of thing. And just give a chance to allow the system to set itself up. I think that was the reasoning initially behind that. But I think it was brilliant and I think it should be used for the future. And it gave you know, it allowed the kids to keep focusing on the job and the trainers, to keep focusing on the job. And nobody was getting caught up with it until there was a break. And then the scores appeared and then they said, Oh, well, maybe I’ve looked at my video six times now, and, you know, I see that I was an 82, You know, I really thought I was better to that jump or something. So by the time the scores came out, they I think the reality of what their score could be might have been a little less emotional and a little more practical. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:18:49] The other the other factor with that. And especially with the first 50 we wanted to. Have. See how the course was being ridden and where some of the bigger detriments might have been. But we wanted time with that because in trying to be fair to every exhibitor we did in the beginning, hold on to a number, you know, for a few moment ssometimes. But it gave us a chance to extend that a little bit and give us a little bit of leeway and think that probably should have been just a little a little higher because from the first of the day to the end of the day, the judge, you know, the feel of it is quite different because the first the first of the day and you’re just trying to see what all the problems could be. And and so you want to be fair to each person. And so what you might have started out with an 86 or something as you go along, you think maybe that was a little better than that because this feels low for that. And so it gave you the chance to adjust. But we didn’t really end up doing a lot of adjusting and we pretty much things fell into place. 

Piper Klemm [00:20:13] It’s so interesting, you know, that you say that because I have people obviously people come to me every day and are like, what do you think about I and judge again? And I always say to them, like, you have no concept how many factors and how much work judging requires and how much feel it requires. Like I don’t I don’t know, a system that could be created that that has the feel that is required to judge even small things like there’s so many factors being considered. 

Wendy Peralta [00:20:50] Well, I think the background of the judges helps to dictate what they’re looking for. You know, so it it does it is a little bit of, you know, beyond the you know, the rail is four points. And that’s not the deductions. It is, you know, as riders or, you know, whatever we are doing at the moment. But. You know, your background dictates what you look for. And the you know, it’s it’s I don’t think you can just create an I, you know, there has to be some passion and emotion and you know, like, oh, that was the most beautiful round I’ve ever seen. You know, like it’s not just the score card, so to speak. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:21:44] But what you want to see is the most performance with the least amount of effort. And and I and I think in the end, I think that’s what we ended up with, because you almost couldn’t even begin to say that you saw the rider do this or that. And they were so smooth and seamless and were a oneness with the horse. And so they really became one and they did that. And so in the end, when you see those beautiful rides and then. It looks like it’s effortless. You end up with the right one. 

Piper Klemm [00:22:23] Wendy, we’ve talked a lot with with judges over the finals over the last several years about how much I’ll say like basically hatred, they’ve gotten after judging these classes and how it makes them not want to judge them again. Are you seeing a new leaf turning over? Do you think that all the changes helped? You know, what’s a couple days after the fact, you know, and you’ve had time to reflect on it? Do you are you able to feel more comfortable? Are you are you feeling this is something that you might want to do again if you were asked. 

Wendy Peralta [00:23:01] Yes, 100%. Actually, it was the worst feeling as a judge, is walking away from an event going on that just, you know, by default, you know this. You know what I mean? Like it just like, you know, you know, it wasn’t I wish it had panned out differently, but I think we all walked away from this going, number one. No question the winner was the winner. And no question the top riders earned their place. You know, among the four panel, I mean, the four person panel, which is amazing. And I was such a good feeling. And the feedback, I think, for the trainers to be able to track the scores, yeah, they might not have totally agreed, but it was understandable. It was followable and I think it was the I think it will be the wave, at least I hope, you know, for the Maclay and maybe some of these other events. And I think for the parents also they, they could, you know, again, they may not agree completely, but they could follow it. And I think that’s huge. And I think, you know, the judge bashing. You know it’s going to happen. I mean, now there’s only one winner, as I always say. But I think, yes, I would be up to do anything of this level. Again, they take another pot shot. 

Piper Klemm [00:24:42] Danny, I believe you both. Both teams of judges had scribes in the booth with you. Can you tell us about what that was like? 

Danny Robertshaw [00:24:51] Yeah, the scribes basically were there to to help us not have to. Take our mind off judging. And so we said, as those numbers were going with 228 riders and sort of a hundred scores to work with, which nobody’s going to be a zero and nobody nobody’s going to be 100, probably. But as we were doing this, especially when we realized they were below the cutoff, but we wanted to try to put in in in a good rang because we knew that scores were going to be averaged. So we wanted to try to get them in the right range. But. But. When you’d be below that cut off and try to work with it. There’s only so many places you can go, so. That’s why what would help us find a spot for as long as there was one. And then we ended up, you know, having to double back somewhat or put up a point five or six with it and to try to keep them separated as best we could. But we didn’t have to spend time looking down a list of 100 numbers trying to find the best opening. So that we could concentrate on the next towards it came in because they were fired in the ring. They didn’t get to wait and and discuss things and come back to it that much. So we wanted to be able to put our minds right on our job. 

Wendy Peralta [00:26:31] And and I think people maybe don’t realize that the time factor, it goes by so quickly. And, you know, you’re sitting with another judge and the two of you have to come up with that score and then you give it to the scribe who then enters that. So in that, you know, that little those few seconds, you know, the next one is in and they’re doing their opening circle and, you know, and it’s there’s there’s no lag time whatsoever. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:03] Yeah, I think the awards were what it was at around 730 after having the first horse in the ring at 715 am. Not a single second for anything else. Can we talk a little bit about like how impressive it is on these these young athletes and what a long day this is? Because some of them going early in the morning, their course walking between six and seven, they’re doing the second round at, they’re flatting at, what, like five and doing the second round at six something, you know. That is quite a. Quite an ask for for anyone to be peaking at their absolute championship bests over a 12 hour period like that. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:27:52] I think the the hard part with that is that. I mean, I don’t think anybody wants to go right in the beginning at daylight, but. As they all like to go at least early enough that they still feel fresh and everything in the mind. I feel badly for the kids that come up way late in the afternoon to have them do that because I think they sit around and watch all day and and stress about it. But that is a total factor that that is really one that there’s nothing you could do about it. Just they’ve got to get from the bottom to the top and and go. So they just have to take their draw. 

Wendy Peralta [00:28:36] I also think being the last final of the season, they’re still pumped. They’re still you know, they they go first or last. They’re going to give it their all. And the ones that do make it back, you know, you figure that’s the top 10% and their their adrenaline just gets going again. And, you know, and you just hope the horses are still feeling it and have been sort of prepared to, you know, carry on and what may seem like another day to them. 

Piper Klemm [00:29:08] And Wendy, what’s your biggest take home that for aspiring future Maclay riders something that that people need to work on or practice or something really important that that you saw as a big challenge to the competition that that people dreaming of Maclay In the future can can work on at home. 

Wendy Peralta [00:29:30] Well, I think position is so important and I think sometimes, you know, good riding kids. You know, they get a little lax, the heels come up a little there, a little bit of those. I’m not saying they should be stiff, but I, I do think, you know, it’s form and function and you see the strength of the better riders. They do appear like they’re doing nothing and they’re solid in the tack they have feel. But they they’ve worked on their position and you know, their ability to, you know, read courses and figure all of that out. And, you know, I think kindness to your animal is super important and just enjoying the process. You know, every year, you know, you see, we had some very young kids come in and compete. We had, you know, the kids aging out. And overall, you know, they’re all pretty, pretty conformed. You know, the rest, you know, the lower the younger kids maybe need to just, you know, work on things. And I think sadly, I would like to you know, kids need to watch other kids compete. And I think we’re missing a little bit of that these days with the Internet and all the rest of it. You know, you really you know, I mean, the day before we’re judging, I was watching the Pan Am games and then I was watching, you know, whatever thing I can watch to just increase my brainpower about the sport. And I think some of these younger kids, they need to watch the older kids and stick around and watch the work off and, you know, keep trying to get better and stronger. 

Piper Klemm [00:31:18] And Danny, what do you think? 

Danny Robertshaw [00:31:20] Um, I definitely agree with Wendy that I don’t think a lot of the kids watch watch enough. Um, I think at regular shows, too, I think kids need to watch the pro classes whenever they get a chance, because I think that’s where you do picks up a whole lot of information where you try to emulate. People that that are really successful. But I think, you know, in watching the Maclay trip. I think what comes out of it is going to be such a connection between the rider and the horse and. And it has to be a friendly one. It can’t be a demanding sort of experience because too much happens too fast and. I think the whole idea of trying to think smooth and effective at the same time, definitely looking around your turns to where you’re going in and figuring out how to keep going forward. But yet use your leg and your rein quietly to get the job done, to get out of the turns and stick to the decisions you planned with. And I think from what we just experienced and finished, I think we’ve all come up with some ideas and some thoughts that would make it a little bit better for next year. And, you know, I’m not going to go into that because we don’t know what the committees and whatnot will end up deciding. But anyway, we all had some input into that and I think it’s going to be even better next year. 

Piper Klemm [00:33:05] Danny, Robertshaw and Wendy Peralta, thank you for joining us on the plaidcast. 

Wendy Peralta [00:33:09] Thank you. 

Danny Robertshaw [00:33:10] You’re very Welcome. 

Piper Klemm [00:33:11] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit theplaidhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow the Plaid Horse on all the social media’s. You can subscribe to the print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!